So on this beautifully sunny Saturday, I receive news that British Airways has suffered a “major systems outage”. Lots of flights are cancelled and passengers are venting on Twitter. Nothing unusual in people venting their frustration at British Airways on Twitter. Even I have done it in the past! There are two main points here. Firstly its British Airways. They never seem to me to be able to handle an issue correctly and seem to have difficulty in behaving in a good and timely fashion towards customers. The chaos always seems to me to be exacerbated. I have had over 15 years experience of this, be it extreme snow or even swipe cards! I remember the swipe cards at Heathrow Airport incident particularly well as they managed to leave me stranded in a god forsaken hell hole for 4 days! I do feel sorry for the passengers on this one as it is not their fault. I hope that they all manage to get on go about their business, they do not need this disruption. An airport in my opinion is one of the worst places to be stuck, especially if you are airside. I have not seen enough information about this one to make any sort of technical judgement. The second point is not particularly aimed at British Airways as it is an industry wide issue. You see all over business and industry not enough budget ever seems to be given to IT and this make-do-and-mend approach has to be followed despite compliance and standards that have to be followed. In my 18 years in the IT trade I saw this every day. Some organisations are better than others. The other month there was an issue with Amazon Web Services that took out a lot of big services for in some cases more than 24 hours. This is not acceptable. Thing is, these outages are getting larger and even more far reaching and disruptive. We had a cyber attack a few weeks ago that severely hit large parts of the NHS and some other organisations too, some of these for more than 24 hours. Cyber attack, system failure or human error, an outage is an outage. One of my systems suffered an outage the other day. I had everything recovered in 10 minutes, but an outage is an outage. You see I had an instant recovery plan that is tried and tested. If l didn’t have these plans in place it could have been worse. I have always felt that not enough attention is paid to disaster recovery, business continuity and failover. This essentially means that you can swap systems over in the event of a major problem to try and avert it or stem the damage to the business. The problem is that business continuity and disaster recovery costs money. At a senior management level there seems to be an attitude of “it will never happen to us, we do not need to spend the money”. It does happen. Systems fail all the time. Its a fact. The answer is to pay more attention and credence to business continuity and failover. An issue will happen and beefing up these components will stem any damage to a business and indeed stem the levels of customer dissent and dissatisfaction, especially when Twitter is so readily available as a complaint channel! I hope business and industry will look at these outages and the effect they have on customers and take some “preventative medicine”. Outages are getting bigger and even more disruptive such is the way everyone now relies on technology.
Since the beginning of 2012 I have taken 105 flights with British Airways. The most recent being from Malaga to London Gatwick last week. You can read a little more about that trip here and here. Suprise, suprise, both the flight out to Malaga and back to Gatwick were heavily delayed. Doing a little research I cam across these statistics. These contradict heavily with my own findings. of 105 flights I can only recollect one flight from Luxembourg to London Heathrow being on time or early in nearly 2 years. In nearly 2 years I have flown with British Airways to Malaga, Madrid, Glasgow, Geneva, Amsterdam, Manchester, Newcastle, Brussels and Luxembourg. I do find these statistics I link to above as they contradict my own. For the avoidance of doubt let me be clear that every delay has been greater than 15 minutes duration. Alas I do not and will never fly as much again, however I do reserve the right to challenge the statistics, especially as in my experience less than 1% of flights arrive on time thus making these statistics potentially incorrect.
I have been using the British Airways iPhone App a lot recently and was suprised to get a message from my network provider telling me how much data I had used of my allowance within 1 week so I decided to investigate. It turns out that the British Airways app leaks data like nobodys business You have been warned only use it when you have to and disable it at all other times.
I was travelling to a client the other morning and having a read of the City AM newspaper while I was sat on the train. I happened upon the results for Heathrow Airport and then I started to really laugh. They state that they have a target for getting passengers through security within 5 minutes of 95% and that the actual figure fell to 93%. I laughed so hard I nearly needed new underwear! As someone who has been using Heathrow Airport for around 35 years and in the past 16 years very frequently because of business travel. When I say very frequently I mean more than 30 times a year! I also worked on the project to build Terminal 5. On this subject I will always feel a small sense of pride when I walk through Terminal 5. I know for a fact that 5 minutes through security at any Heathrow terminal is an absolute joke in terms of delays. 3 % with a target of 5% in under 5 minutes is more like it!!!! It regularly takes me 20 minutes to clear security especially at 7 am on Monday morning. As a frequent traveller I know how to clear security with an absolute minimum of fuss and how to be prepared in order to clear security as fast as possible. I very rarely get stopped by the officials because I know what I am doing however the vast majority of travellers do not. Please take your belt off before getting to the conveyor belt. Please empty your pockets and have your watch off before you get to the conveyor belt. They might want to get the laptops ready too. Oh and please stop congregating and holding a mothers meeting just after you have passed the scanner it holds everyone else up. A number of my frequent flyer colleagues I am sure will share my sentiments. Whilst we are on the subject of security at Heathrow I am still in awe as to how I managed to get a large swiss army knife that I forgot I had in my briefcase through security last September! I still cannot work out how I managed it! So come on Heathrow Airport, be realistic and accurate oh and the red carpet treatment when I visit next week might be nice!!!!
So what been happening recently with me, Court Capital Partners and more? As some as you may know I have had a few health issues on and off since 2010. Chest pains, eye problems and now problems with my ears and hearing. As more of you may know I have had for many years a healthy IT consultancy with a large number of clients based in mainland Europe. Over the past 2 months problems with my ears and almost constant earache which gets worse when flying have mean’t that I am now medically banned from flying and driving. Thats 60% of my business and income down the swanny 🙁 as I am effectively banned from business travel. Eurostar also causes problems because of the pressure when the train is underground. and that is not a good feeling. I am not however going to wallow. The doctors have so far been buckshee useless in getting it sorted and getting the pain under control. I am certainly soon to have a major argument with certain parts of the NHS. After an international career spanning 13 years, 900 flights, 2500 nights in hotel rooms, the odd speeding ticket and a pranged hire car or 3 I returned home from my last business trip for the foreseeable future on Friday night in agony after a lengthy journey from Luxembourg via train. A pretty sad but thought provoking event. So what am I doing about it? Well for a start I am putting my non-UK client list up for sale. I have decided to heavily develop Court Capital Partners and before we tail off for the Christmas break you can expect to see a few new things here. I am also looking for new business ventures and casting the net to see what is out there. I will be updating my personal blog here on an ad hoc basis. Also expect to see me doing more face to face networking than I have been over the past 3-4 years, if you feel there is an event worth attending please let me know. I’m looking forward to this new chapter in life and as they say as one door closes hopefully another one opens and I am going to try not to let it get me down.
So I have been flying British Airways quite a bit recently. Out of 8 flights 7 have been late and one so late I would have been quicker walking. On this particular occasion I absolutely had to land at London Heathrow on time in order to meet someone very important. Are they still the worlds favourite airline? Customer service also seems to have taken a knock with the introduction of surly and unhelpful staff. My questions are: 1) Is this part of their new business strategy and if so will it work? 2) Is point one the case or have they given up on customers? British Airways used to be an excellent airline. I do believe it is a shame they are falling from grace in the eyes of their customers. Especially in view of the very high prices they are demanding these days.